Carnival Center told it needs higher-profile programming
By April M. Havens
A visit to the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts by officials of the respected John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington revealed a need for more long-term planning and higher-profile programming to help raise private funding, officials say.
Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser toured the Miami venue July 9 with his director of marketing and director of finance. The Kennedy Center, which operates at 85% occupancy and raises around $70 million in private donations each year, is highly regarded in the artistic community, said Michael Hardy, president and CEO of the Carnival Center.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who traveled to Washington to ask Kennedy Center officials to tour the Carnival Center and make recommendations, said Mr. Kaiser felt the Carnival Center is a world-class facility but private support is severely lacking.
The Carnival Center will raise about $2.2 million in private donations this year, according to Mr. Hardy.
"We are experiencing growing pains, but from the visit, I learned that one of the most important things is developing a long-range five-year plan and the importance of having quality programming," Mr. Gimenez said. "This will facilitate more private donation. It goes hand-in-hand."
Mr. Hardy said joining the Kennedy Center's internationally recognized arts-education program should help strengthen the Carnival Center's reputation in the community and should help encourage more private donations.
Planning for the Carnival Center has focused two years ahead, Mr. Hardy said. "I think the general indication will be to look further out to our program," he said. The main benefit of planning is that the center has more time to find funding and build media support for major projects.
Kennedy Center officials "were speaking specifically about adding high-profile programming, nationally and internationally recognized programs," Mr. Hardy said.
Longer planning to draw high-quality, high-profile programs leads to more private support for centers, Mr. Kaiser told Carnival Center officials. Mr. Kaiser was out of the country this week and unavailable for comment.
Mr. Hardy said the Carnival Center is working within a three-year timeframe to commission a contemporary opera titled "Macandal." "This is exactly what the Kennedy Center said we needed to do," Mr. Hardy said. "They are just saying you should be doing that with five or six new programs."
Mr. Gimenez said he is awaiting word from Carnival Center officials to "see how many of the suggestions they took to heart." He said Mr. Hardy and other Carnival Center officials seemed receptive of the recommendations and he expects contact within the next few weeks.
Mr. Hardy said Kennedy Center officials made many suggestions. When asked how many he would implement, he said, "Some we will and some we won't."
Representatives of AMS Planning and Research, a consultancy that specializes in developing long-range plans for arts facilities, will visit the Carnival Center within two weeks, collaborate with Kennedy Center officials and offer additional recommendations, Mr. Hardy said.
After the AMS visit, Carnival Center officials will start a series of meetings to discuss the recommendations and begin developing a five-year strategic plan, Mr. Hardy said.
"I think we will kind of absorb and incorporate the ideas that come out of these visits over the balance of this calendar year and have a long-range plan in place by November," he said.